This year’s Person of the Year, for TIME Magazine, is 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
After learning of the announcement, United States President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his opinion.
“So ridiculous,” he said. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to an old-fashioned movie with a friend. Chill Greta, Chill.”
Thunberg did not reply to this, but changed her Twitter bio to: “A teenager worker on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
The response was classy and exposed Trump for the bully and misogynist that he is.
But he got one thing right—Thunberg is angry, indeed. The TIME cover story describes the time she first heard about the climate crisis, when she was 11. She has Asperger’s syndrome and does not process information like many people do, so when her teacher talked about the existential threat, Thunberg fell into a deep depression and stopped speaking almost entirely, for months. She ate so little she was nearly hospitalized. It was only when family members altered their lifestyle—eating less meat, using solar panels, eschewing air travel—that she slowly stirred back to life.
In August last year, Thunberg skipped class and camped out in front of the Swedish parliament building, demanding that her government’s leaders did something concrete and consequential about the looming emergency.
Much has changed since then. The climate strikes became a global event, and Thunberg herself has gained popularity—notoriety, for some—speaking before government and business leaders and taking them to task for only talking about the climate crisis without doing anything about it. For the youth, she has become a rallying figure. Already there are numerous champions, equally young, equally angry, and equally resolute to make a difference in their own parts of the world.
There is no dearth of haters: Why listen, they say, to a white girl from a rich country? Some make fun of her condition and questioned why she was exhorting other children to skip school. Others ridicule her manner of speaking and responding to questions. Trump, of course, asked her to chill and see a movie.
But to chill is a luxury because the emergency is upon us, and will only get worse with every day there is more talk than action. Thunberg is Person of the Year not because the world is glorifying a petite teenager for whom a scowl is more common than a smile, but because her anger and urgency should be amplified across the globe. Some messengers tell us things that we don’t know; Thunberg is telling us something we already do but, tragically, do not acknowledge as important or compelling.
This is why she will not chill. This is why we shouldn’t, as well.